HOUGHTON - Last season, the Michigan Tech men's basketball team welcomed Ohio Dominican into the U.P. with a 74-36 beatdown, including a 43-13 lead at halftime.
One year later, the Panthers have started Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play 0-4 and are shooting just 39 percent as a team.
Naturally, Huskies (5-2 overall, 3-1 GLIAC) coach Kevin Luke is on edge for tonight's game.
Michigan Tech’s Alex Culy goes to the floor to get a loose ball from Findlay’s Sean Samsel during their game last Thursday at the SDC?Gym. Tech is at Ohio Dominican tonight and Tiffin Saturday. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
"They are young but they play hard. They don't stop," Luke said. "(Despite the losses) they have done a nice job against the teams that they played so far. It was a close game with Grand Valley and they were ahead of Wayne State and Ferris State (before losing)."
Dominican (3-5 overall, 0-4 GLIAC) has failed to record a conference victory because it simply has not shot the ball well enough to win.
Along with the 38.8 percent overall shooting, the Panthers convert just 26.5 percent from three - where they attempt 20 per game - and knock down 67 percent of free throws attempted.
Their top scorer, Morgan Jones, takes 16 shots per game to reach his 17.6 points and is making just 40.9 percent from the field.
"That is the youth in them," Luke said. "They have some good pieces though. They like to shoot it and they look like they can shoot it. There is no hesitation, so they are certainly confident enough to shoot.
"It doesn't look like it on paper, but you have to guard them."
ODU kept in the game with upper-tier GLIAC squads Grand Valley and Ferris by pounding the offensive glass to make up for their shooting woes.
The Panthers snag 17.1 offensive rebounds per game - a number partly inflated from the higher missed shot totals - and the Huskies will need help from the guard trio to supplement forward Ali Haidar's 11.9 rebounds per contest.
Austin Armga grabbed eight rebounds in the win against Hillsdale last Saturday and junior Alex Culy has always been able to grab some boards away from his area with three per game himself.
"Right now, that is what's happening for (Ohio Dominican) to score," Luke said. "They are crashing hard after every shot.
"Our guys have to be active. All of them have to keep their guy off the glass. If we don't do that, they are going get on us quickly."
Tech put in its best defensive sequence of the season last weekend in the wins over Hillsdale (55 points) and Findlay (49 points) - and possibly ever for the current group, Luke said - somewhat alleviating what had been a major preseason concern for the Huskies.
Without many exceptional individual defenders - T.J. Brown excepted - Tech was able to get the job done with crisp communication and quick rotations. It will be an issue on the forefront once again against the Panthers and Tiffin Saturday, as both teams prefer to drive and kick.
"I think we didn't lose concentration and our communication was the best that I have seen it," Luke said. "Everything that we have been practicing finally came together. It has been like pulling teeth to get them to communicate and in those two games it just happened.
"Now we have to prove it wasn't just a one-weekend thing."
Jones in particular will test the Huskies defense coming around ballscreens.
The 5-foot-9 senior point guard has the quickness to get in the lane and the athletic ability to finish inside. Thus Luke will be instituting the "man-and-a-half" rule on ball screens.
" We are going to drag with the big and switch big guys in that process," Luke said. "A guy and a half on him really when he comes around. We want our bigs to drag long enough to hopefully stop him from going off."
Tech then travels to Tiffin Saturday, which the Huskies are 6-0 against all-time.